Olympic Swimmers: ‘No Flags Will Fly’

The Royal Mail arrived yesterday and the CD  got its first proper spin on the home stereo. I’ve been grateful to have had the last few weeks to listen to the mp3s you so kindly forwarded me. I’ve had the chance to listen to it quite a bit on the daily commute. As accessible as it is there is a considerable amount of depth. Some of the ‘local’ press I glanced at seemed almost surprised that the record was as good as it is. I found that puzzling. Are you happy with the reaction?

“Definitely happy that anyone likes it at all…did have a slight worry somewhere in the back of my head that we might be the only ones that thought it was any good! I’m not sure that I’ve picked up on people being surprised, maybe I’ve missed that but the only thing that has slightly puzzled me is the desire to talk about the olympic games or swimming! Our name is just a name, and apart from the fact that I consider it to have nothing to do with the olympic games, I’m surprised that anyone would want to waste words/space talking about something so far removed from an album of music! It’s a really difficult thing to self-release an album in a town that’s pretty saturated with music, in a world where fewer and fewer people care much about music itself, so we really appreciate any support we’ve had from bloggers, press, radio, twitter-addicts etc.”

 I am pleased that you took our “advice” and put ‘Apples and Pears’ on the record. Apparent changes: opening inverted in the mix, the vocals and song are given more space to breathe, some more playful guitar lines, drumming is toned down and more focused; all in all an excellent revision of a gem of a song. It solidly anchors the record in the 4th position. Were there any conscious decisions made when polishing up the song? You weren’t seriously contemplating not including it were you?

“We were very seriously considering not including it (sorry!). We had several rounds of voting throughout the demoing, recording and mixing. I can’t remember now when and where I voted for it but it wasn’t all the time! There were other songs we recorded in full, and some that started out and were left ‘on hold’ that at times threatened A&P. I think we recorded the original version quite soon after it was written and so there were things about it that later bothered us that we wanted to change. We re-recorded it for the album to see how it would be with some revisions and I think it scrubbed up well!”

The bass line in the second track ‘Knots’ is a joy to listen to. It is probably my favourite new song. It is constantly rattling around my head. The vocals, in terms of pacing and delivery, especially in the choruses, remind me of Yuki Chikudate of Asobi Seksu. Are you familiar with them at all? Most of the songs sound very unique vocally; it is just the first reference that came to me. Of course, my comparisons must be taken with a grain of salt as in ‘Where it Snows’ I can hear Liz Fraser as well. Do you have a specific approach to singing?

“I don’t know Asobi Seksu’s music very well but I’m pretty sure Jonny really likes them so maybe he was subconsciously influencing me! Liz Fraser, on the other hand, is one of my favourite vocalists but I feel as equally influenced by Jaz Coleman and you’d probably struggle to hear him in there unless you were really trying! When I sing the chorus it sometimes reminds me of Ron sexsmith, I’m not sure why! Singing approach, I suppose there’s two parts to that – the melody and the physical approach. In terms of melodies I don’t think I let myself think about it too much – my favourite tunes to have come out of my head just came out without me having to ask them to. I usually just try loads of things out loud or in my head while the others are playing as loud as possible or while I’m listening to something we’ve recorded in rehearsal. What I can physically do with my voice has definitely changed in the last few years maybe as I’ve gotten more confident with trying new things and maybe also because I’ve been thinking in much more depth about the way my throat or mouth or breathing feels and how that affects the sounds. I think when people see us live they’re a bit surprised that i can make so much noise but I’ve never had much of a problem belting it out! Its actually the other extreme I’ve found more difficult but my brother Simon pushed me to try a much softer approach when we were writing songs for the album and I’m really glad he did because I think I needed some balance in there!”

I couldn’t find any evidence of Green White Violet records. Is the album self- released?  Is there any chance of a possible future vinyl release?

Green White Violet is simply the label I had to set up for us in order to self-release. Maybe I should set up a website to satisfy the desires of future curious googlers! I chose the name because green, white and violet were the colours used by the Women’s Social and Political Union at the start of the 20th Century and I thought that the themes that represents of equality, union and drive toward a common goal were pretty decent values on which to base a DIY approach to making and releasing music!  We would love to do a vinyl release…and so we might…should probably be on green, white or violet vinyl though eh?!

The June 24th Oran Mor lineup is remarkable. Have you played or attended this event before? Is it the culminating piece of the Westend Festival? I’m curious how the multi-stage line up works. Are the sets staggered or do difficult choices need to be made?

“Because I was away when you emailed me I can now satisfy your curiosity because we played it last night! The sets were staggered to a certain extent but I think maybe some folk had to make certain sacrifices throughout the day. My regrettable decision to attempt to take some of our equipment away from the venue before RM Hubbert came on meant I missed most of his set but I can’t exactly blame that on any clash of lineup, just my own stupidity! I don’t think Oran Mor have run anything like this before but I sincerely hope they do again (and have us back!) because they nailed it! We had our friend Alex filling in on drums for us because Jonny was flying back from America and didn’t think he’d be able to make it in time. He turned up as we were going on, so had the bizarre experience of watching us play.”

Could you relate some of the back story for ‘Your Father Said’? Why did another song from one of the EPs end up as lead track for your debut full length? (beyond what is in the Peenko song rundown)

“Beyond what I said on peenko about the lyrics, Father Said grew out of a demo Graeme and I recorded in our living room. It was originally much faster and about twice as long, there was also another bit of a vocal melody that never made it to the final melody, so I might go back to it at some point. On the original recording Graeme played guitar and Jamie played bass. It was originally recorded for the album because we love it! And because we hoped that the album would have a broader reach than the EPs had, so it seemed like a waste to ignore it just because it had been on ‘One’. Once we had re-recorded it we felt that it was even more worthy of being on the album.”

Have you heard any of the forthcoming third Meursault record? On a whim, I recently added a vinyl copy of their debut to my Leg order from the Toad. Playing the record was a revelation. It is arguably my favourite record at the moment. Have you ever re-discovered’ something after a cursory introduction?

“I haven’t heard it I’m afraid but am gutted to hear that your favourite record at the moment is not OURS! I’m going to mortify the rest of my band here … my dad has the definition of eclectic taste and fed us abba to the incredible string band to camera obscura over the years so I have always loved abba but during my teens I probably thought I didn’t need to add that to my list of loser qualities so definitely turned my back on them! I’ve been back in love with them for a while but I hadnt listened properly to the visitors for years until Graeme bought me an old lp last year and I had forgotten how much I am in love with those voices! On a slightly less uncool note my friend Craig tried to get me into Antony and the Johnsons a few years ago and I resisted. I watched them with him at a gig and despite being totally overwhelmed by the set I didn’t buy any records. I recently amended that error and am now in full obsession. This has tended to be the pattern of my friendship with him that he’ll try to get me to like things, I’ll protest and then later admit he’s usually right.”

Good experiment or bad idea? I noticed that Modern English are playing down the hill from me next month. I saw them back in ’83 during my first year in college. I quite liked the records; Ricochet Days was actually one of my favourites. Live it was a disaster. They are touting the “original lineup”. They couldn’t possibly still be as bad could they? I am strangely compelled to go and see — as a musical experiment. Have you gone to see a band you admired from the studio but the live performance induced the desire to flee? Could you tell us who they were?

“Quite a few but none I feel comfortable immortalising on the internet! I once lost my ticket on the way to see Sonic Youth play the barrowlands after a very long time waiting to see them and then had to buy another one from a tout at a ridiculous price. I don’t think they were actually bad, but they didn’t live up to what I hoped it would be nor the price I’d then paid for it, but thats probably mostly my own fault!

I just ordered a second copy of ‘No Flags Will Fly”. The plan? – take it to the JAMC show tomorrow night and give it to Phil as a thank you for the guest list spots. What artists have you discovered while on tour or because of a show? (I don’t suppose I could convince you to un-shrink wrap and sign this one?)

“Please let me know how you got on with this plan! I can’t really think of anyone we’ve played with that we haven’t known about, or at least investigated before hand but I did really like Junip when we played with them as I’d never really heard them before but I celebrated that night by having a few ales and singing Aerosmith in the street, so I’ve tried to wipe the entire event from my memory. And yes I’ll un-shrink wrap and follow your instructions!”

Are there any acts we should be looking for? Ideally something we might not have heard of yet?

We played with a very nice band called No Comet who are really good and you might like. Scottish bands other than the ones I’ve told you, I like French wives, Miaoux Miaoux, John Knox Sex Club but you probably know them already! Still more in love with Desalvo, Holy Mountain and Happy Particles than its safe to admit.”

Lastly, isn’t it about time Emma Pollock comes back to SF? (bringing her backing band and Olympic Swimmers as support)

“Isn’t it about time you came over here on holiday?!”

T&P

Our Jesus and Mary Chain adventure was limited to being on the guest list. No backstage passes were handed out that evening for them due to illness and a flight out right after the show. But hey … we can say we were on the Mary Chain guestlist.  (saving $55 each didn’t hurt either)

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